How You Can Save Over $1,000 by Not Getting Sick

Avoiding illness will save you more than just the cost of tissues and cough drops.

 

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You might think a $1,000 bill for the common cold is outlandish, but when you look at the numbers, it's actually surprising that the cost of getting sick isn't higher. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average adult gets two to three colds per year. Add up the money lost in wages, doctor's office co-pays and over-the-counter remedies and you can see how easily the cost of illness skyrockets.

From flu shots to prescriptions, here's how much getting sick costs you and how much you could save by staying healthy. There's something to think about on World Health Day.

Cost of Doctor Visits
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1. Cost of Doctor Visits

Check-ups at the doctor 's office are important to staying healthy throughout the year, especially during flu season. However, if you get sick and have to return to the doctor more frequently, the cost of each doctor 's appointment starts to add up.

The average out-of-pocket cost per medical visit is $32, according to a study published by the American Journal of Managed Care. Based on CDC data, the average person goes to the doctor about three times a year, which would total $96.

But the $96 estimate just scratches the surface of actual costs. On a deeper level, going to the doctor because you 're sick entails what is called opportunity cost or the value of work and productivity lost. When you spend two hours trying to see the doctor, you're not spending those two hours doing other tasks that could make you money.

The study published in the American Journal of Managed Care calculated that the average opportunity cost of a medical visit is about $43. That's on top of the $32 for the actual visit. Therefore, leaving out the cost of insurance premiums, the average trip to the doctor 's office totals $75 or $225 for the year, based on three visits. Add in travel time and effort and the total cost per visit comes closer to $100 or $300 per year according to Mike Catania, a consumer spending expert and co-founder of PromotionCode.org.

There is an emerging sector of the healthcare industry that could help you save on doctor 's visits. Telemedicine is providing a way to remotely and virtually visit physicians at lower costs and greater convenience to patients.

Read: 10 Ways to Survive Rising Healthcare Costs

Cost of Prescriptions
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2. Cost of Prescriptions

Prescription drugs seem to be ubiquitous in the U.S., and that trend might continue. According to the actuarial and consulting firm Milliman, prescription drugs are one of the most rapidly growing components of the Milliman Medical Index (MMI), the company's index for medical costs.

In fact, the cost of prescription drugs adds up to roughly 17 percent of total healthcare spending. In 2016, the MMI prescription drug costs for a family of four are almost four times as much as they were 15 years ago.

Prescriptions for specialty drugs have increased in recent years, and they tend to be more expensive than general medications. Still, prescribed medications, such as antibiotics, prescription decongestants and steroid nasal spray, add up to an estimated $960 a year, said Dan Gay, president of Sinus Survival.

So if you stay healthy, averting the need to visit the doctor and pay for prescription medications, you could already potentially save more than $1,200 in the year. But if you do need medication, experts say buying generic can save money.

Cost of Over-the-Counter Drugs
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3. Cost of Over-the-Counter Drugs

Managing to avoid the doctor and prescriptions doesn't mean you're out of the woods yet. According to data from Statista, retail sales of over-the-counter cough and cold drugs totaled more than $9 billion in 2016.

Considering the population of the U.S. was just under 325 million in 2016, that means each person spent roughly $28 on over-the-counter medication for the year.

Learn: How Inflated Drug Prices Are Affecting Your Wallet

Cost of Missing Work
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4. Cost of Missing Work

Missing a day at the office costs both you and your employer money. According to a report on the CDC's website, the losses due to absenteeism are estimated to cost employers $1,685 per employee every year. In total, worker illness and injury costs U.S. employers $225.8 billion annually.

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, American workers get an average of eight paid sick leave days, across all establishments and length of service. The average hourly wage for all Americans as of July 2016 was around $21 per hour, said Catania. By these numbers, missing eight days of work from illness adds up to losing out on more than $1,300 a year. But if you stay healthy and in the office, that's another grand you save from not getting sick.

Cost of Presenteeism
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5. Cost of Presenteeism

If there's a cost to missing work for being sick, there's also a price for going to the office under-the-weather. Of the total cost sick workers inflict on employers, 60 percent of it is due to employees who go into work while sick. Presenteeism, the opposite of absenteeism, can hit employers hard in the wallet, costing them an estimated $150 billion per year, according to the Harvard Business Review.

Coming into the office when you're ill undermines productivity in multiple ways. Working sick can result in:

  • Decreased work output
  • Reduced time spent on work tasks
  • Reduced quality of work
  • Lower staff morale
Cost of Going to the Hospital
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6. Cost of Going to the Hospital

With no other recourse, you might end up going to the hospital if you get sick. And even with insurance, hospital visits will cost you.

A recent study by JAMA Internal Medicine found that, despite the fact that healthcare costs haven't risen dramatically, out-of-pocket expenses have. Even with insurance, the study found that average out-of-pocket cost for a hospital visit was more than $1,000.

Find Out: How to Negotiate Hospital Bills